Television as a Bridge
Duisburg-Rheinhausen, North Business Park, in the Ruhr Region, in the heart of Germany: Nestled in this industrial park are the glass headquarters of the German-Turkish television station "Kanal Avrupa" ("Channel Europe"), which can be received all over Europe through satellite "Türksat 2."
The program runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, featuring news and entertainment, advice and talk. The staff of 35 makes sure the program is varied. There's not always a political bent, sometimes an old American film will be shown in the afternoon. During primetime in the evening, it's usually Turkish folk music and culture.
Not just entertainment
But the problems of Turkish immigrants also have their place, says Seran Sargur, director of Kanal Avrupa: "We also have a forum for women called 'Feminine, Womanly – Kandincka.' Turkish women who come to Germany receive information about what to expect here. They are unfamiliar with the education system and the healthcare system in Germany. So we provide information about how life in Germany functions."
The station's program was conceived for Turks living in Germany and is largely in Turkish, but also partly in German.
Cengiz Yildirim from the "Essen Center for Turkish Studies" has been observing the station for some time and thinks that it fulfills an important social function.
It is not just a matter of Turkish viewers seeing their fellow countrymen who have grown up in Germany and with whom they can identify. More significant is that contemporary problems are addressed by "Kanal Avrupa", according to Cengiz Yildirim:
"Stories about education, the accomplishment of immigrants in school, or unemployment among youths are the topics that directly affect immigrants and which the program address," notes Yildirim. "Many of these discussions and contributions contain valuable information and I see this as serving as a bridge."
Mostly in Turkish
Because most programs have thus far been in Turkish, this represents a deficit in terms of integration, says Yildirim. Supporting the language skills of immigrants is an elementary task that should be emphasized. Those who want to integrate must master the language, according to Yildirim. "Perhaps 'Kanal Avrupa' is doing too little in this direction, given that most programs are only in Turkish."
Director Serkan Sargur defends the station against the accusation that "Kanal Avrupa" contributes to the ghettoization of the Turkish community. And some parts of programs are broadcast in German.
"Turksat has about 30 channels that are broadcast in Turkish," says Sargur, "and when you consider that "Kanal Avrupa" is the only one that reports on German issues, then it's clear we are doing just the opposite."
In the future, the German-Turkish station will place more emphasis on German politicians. Integration Minister Armin Laschet has already been a guest. The program content in the German language will soon be expanded - previously it was only ten percent. And a political forum and a talk show will also be added.
The shows will either be simultaneously translated or subtitled. Despite being a commercial station, "Kanal Avrupa" will also begin a few projects sponsored by EU funds, says Sargur:
A kind of tele-learning for women
"One of our projects is called 'Deutsch für Mama'. It is meant for newly-wed women who are staying at home because of their children and can't attend adult education, but with the help of our brochures they can learn German in front of the television - a kind of tele-learning."
So far there are no figures on how many people watch the programs because there are only a few general statistics available on the television habits of Turkish immigrants in Germany.
The only indicator thus far is the number of clicks on the station's homepage. The growing interest of Turkish viewers for German-Turkish programs is also demonstrated by the number of callers on the daily advice hotline. Every day new topics are addressed, for example law, family, education or health.
© DEUTSCHE WELLE/Qantara.de 2007
Translated from the German by Christina M. White